For so many people, Berlin is and always will be, the symbolic city of the cold war. Of course, there’s so much more to find within the city whose rich history goes back hundreds of years. Berlin has been the capital of Prussia, the Brandenburg state, the German Empire, the Third Reich and now modern day Germany.
It has also become a capital of design, fashion, culture and counterculture, music, and the arts. It is an energetic city that is sure to please even the most jaded of travelers. Living in Germany, we’ve visited many times, spent many a weekend in Berlin, and each time we find more and more to do. As you might guess, having only 2 days in Berlin just isn’t enough, but for this Berlin city guide we’ve compiled a list of the best sights and activities the city has to offer to get you started. Weekends in Berlin are a real blast!
“Berlin surprised me in every possible way. From what appears to be a more ‘grungy’ city on the outside, it is a city full of well-curated museums and sites that commemorate its dark past in the most beautiful way. A few days in Berlin was not enough time to explore all that this amazing city has to offer – I can’t wait to go back one day soon as I’ve barely scratched the surface of it!” says Loredana of Destguides.com.
Berlin Best Things to Do – Itinerary Day 1
If it’s your first time visiting Berlin, a mere weekend will only whet your appetite, but that’s okay. You are going to want to come back again and again, like we do…every chance we get! There’s just so much to see and do, so many experiences unique to the city, and, of course, an ever changing dynamic cultural scene. Whether you are into history, art, museums, performances, music, food, or night life, Berlin has it all.
The Reichstag building visit is surprisingly informative. Walking up the spiral ramp in the cupola you’ll gain a new understanding of recent German history. And the architecture and views are astounding.
When planning your Berlin itinerary, you really should book this in advance but don’t despair, “Visitors who have not booked in advance can, if free places are still available, register to visit with just two hours’ advance notice by going to the service centre on the south side of Scheidemannstraße, next to the Berlin Pavilion.”
- Address: Platz der Republik 1, 11011 Berlin
- Website for tickets
- S-Bahn – Brandenburger Tor (S1,S2, S25)
- U-Bahn – Bundestag or Brandenburger Tor (U55)
- Bus – Bundestag (100), Brandenburger Tor (100, 147, 200, TXL)
From the Reichstag building head south and east on foot and you’ll walk right through the Brandenburg Gate. This is the most famous Berlin landmark and was the sight of Ronald Reagan’s famous speech imploring, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
- Address: Pariser Platz, 10117 Berlin
- S-Bahn – Brandeburger Tor (S1,S2, S25)
- U-Bahn – Bundestag or Brandenburger Tor (U55)
- Bus – Bundestag (100), Brandenburger Tor (100, 147, 200, TXL)
Continuing south on foot from the Brandenburg Gate, about a block down Ebertstrasse, you’ll find the somber and mystical holocaust memorial. The 2,711 columns offer a stark reminder of the lives lost and the visitor’s center under the field of cement blocks offers a number of rooms dedicated to keeping the memories of those lost lives from being forgotten. The memorial is free, but will take you a few sobering minutes to take it all in. Make sure you’ve added it to your Berlin itinerary; it’s a must-see.
- Address: Cora-Berliner-Straße 1, 10117 Berlin
- Jewish Memorial website
- S-Bahn – Brandeburger Tor (S1,S2, S25)
- U-Bahn – Brandenburger Tor (U55)
- Bus – Behrenstr./Wilhelmstr. (200), Brandenburger Tor (100, 147, 200, TXL)
The fate of this island on the river Spree was sealed when King Frederick Wilhelm IV dedicated it to “art and science.” On this UNESCO World Heritage Listed island you’ll find enough museum coverage to keep you busy for a week, let alone a weekend.
I recommend a targeted approach and focus on where your interest lies. For me, the number one museum is the Pergammon with its incredible collection and complete reconstructions of major architecture from the ancient world.
As usual, check the websites for the museums you are interested in for opening times, closures, and renovations that could affect your visit.
- Museums Website
- Tram – Am Kupfergraben (12, M1)
- Bus – Lustgarten (100, 200, N2)
Just across the river Spree from the Museum Island, in the shadow of the Berliner Dom, you’ll find the DDR Museum carved into the banks of the river. This tiny museum is packed full of exhibits showing what life was like in East Berlin under the watchful eye of the German Democratic Republic.
They have everything from home life, school life, jobs, free time, travel, being in the military, nothing is missed. This is one of the most interactive museums I’ve ever been to and it’s one of my all time favorites. You can even pose for a picture driving a Trabi!
- Address: Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1, 10178 Berlin
- DDR Museum Website
- S-Bahn – Alexanderplatz or Hackescher Markt (S5, S7, S75)
- U-Bahn – Alexanderplatz (U8) Tram – Spandauer Straße (M5, M4, M6)
- Bus – Spandauer Straße(100, 200, 248, M48, TXL)
Itinerary Day 2 for Berlin – Top Sights
The Berlin Wall Memorial
This is the last remaining intact section of the wall; here you’ll find the wall as it was during the height of the cold war (minus the land mines and ferocious dogs). This site brings the oppression and fear back to life. It is a hard place to visit but should be at the top of every list.
Allow two hours for a visit that includes the visitor center. The open-air exhibition is open 24 hours a day all year round, but check the website for visitor centers hours and closures.
- Address: Bernauer Straße 111, 13355 Berlin
- S-Bahn – Nordbahnhof (S1/S2, Bus 245/247)
- Tram – Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (M10)
- U-Bahn – Bernauer Strasse (U8).
East Side Gallery Berlin
This is another of the few remaining stretches of the wall still standing. Here the wall stretches for over a kilometer as the longest open air gallery in the world. The 101 street art images are a dedicated monument to the fall of the Berlin wall and to peaceful resolutions and reunifications everywhere.
- Address: Mühlenstraße, 10243 Berlin
- East Side Gallery Website
- S-Bahn – Ostbahnhof (S5, S7, S75)
- U-Bahn – U Schlesisches Tor (U1)
- Bus – Eastside Gallery (248)
Continue your exploration of Cold War Berlin at the famous Checkpoint Charlie. This unassuming, small white shack was one of only two crossing points between East and West Berlin. There are a number of attractions here focused on informing visitors of life in Berlin during the Cold War and various aspects of the wall.
Note: You’ll also find the Curry Wurst museum just around the corner, and Trabi World one block down the street.
- Address: Friedrichstraße 43-45, 10117 Berlin
- U-Bahn – Kochstraße (U6)
- Bus – Kochstraße (M29, N6)
Spandauer Damm 20-24, 14059 Berlin A trip to Berlin wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Charlottenburg Palace, the seat of power for generations of Prussian Kings and German Emperors. You can visit several areas of this beautiful Baroque castle, see the crown jewels, silver and gold dinnerware, and of course, Frederick the Great’s snuff box collection. Even better, the parks and gardens around the palace are free to explore from dawn till dusk. If you’re here in the winter you can sip gluhwein (mulled wine) while finishing your Christmas shopping in one of Berlin’s best Christmas markets. U-Bahn – Richard Wagner Platz (U7) Bus – Schloss Charlottenburg (309, M45)
Berlin Weekend Guide Map
Can you enjoy Berlin in winter?
Yes! Don’t hesitate to do this entire itinerary in December! There is one more fantastic attraction that you will want to enjoy – the Berlin Christmas Market! They have everything from ornaments, mulled wine, German treats, handicrafts, and lots of rides and games. It’s a full-on carnival atmosphere right on Alexanderplatz! You won’t want to miss it.
Where to Eat on Your Weekend in Berlin
Berlin is a city of food. You will find everything from budget wurst stands to Michelin star restaurants, fantastic vegan restaurants, and everything in between.
Berlin is perhaps best known for its curry wurst. Post war Berlin was, by all accounts, a miserable place with craters and piles of brick and stone, where grand buildings once stood. There were food shortages and almost everything was hard to come by.
Of course, wurst was the meat to be had but how to spice it up a little? Enter allied soldiers, ketchup and curry powder. Soon a food revolution swept the city and today you can order curry wurst from stands and stalls all around the city. You should definitely give it a try.
11:00A.M. – 8:30 P.M. (M-Su) Wurst am Brandenburg Tor has been slicing up perfectly grilled, spicy currywurst for years right at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin’s most iconic sight.
- Address: Ebertstraße, 10117 Berlin, Germany
- Brandenburger Tor Currywurst
Our Restaurant Recommendations
Zur Letzten Instanz
For a more substantial meal, however, you might dine in the oldest restaurant in Berlin, Zur Letzten Instanz. This eatery has been serving delicious local fare since 1651 with notable diners including Napoleon and Charlie Chaplin; try the grilled pork knuckle and a cold, draft pilsner-delicious!
- Address: Waisenstraße 14-16, 10179 Berlin
- Zur Letzen Instanz
- Lunch and Dinner every day except Monday (dinner only) Reservations recommended.
One of the best Italian restaurants we’ve found outside of Italy can be found in Berlin near the Potsdamer Platz. Osteria Caruso is our go-to restaurant in Berlin. We make a point of making a reservation there on every visit to the city. It’s that good!
- Address: Köthener Strasse 38, 10936 Berlin
- Osteria Caruso
- 11:00 A.M. to Midnight (M-F); 5:00 P.M. to Midnight (Sat.) Reservations recommended.
Power Tip: If you are taking kids with you, or you are a big kid at heart, don’t miss the Ritter Sport Store where you can design your own chocolate bar!
Where to Stay in Berlin
Berlin hotels cover every imaginable taste, comfort level, and budget. We tend to go with a midrange hotel; Berlin has so many good ones to choose from. Regardless of what type of hotel you prefer, you should pick one that is conveniently close to public transportation.
Another good tip for booking city hotels is to check the hotel’s website. Look for special weekend offers that not only have reduced rates, but usually will include some other incentives like free meals, welcome drinks, or free passes to popular tourist sights.
We’ve listed some of our choices to help you find the best hotel Berlin has to offer.
- Hotel Indigo Berlin-Alexanderplatz Bernhard-Weiß-Straße 5, 10178 Berlin Budget hotel with outstanding value and a superior location near the Alexanderplatz.
- Boutique Hotel i31 Berlin Mitte Invalidenstraße 31, 10115 Berlin Boutique hotel with midrange prices, comfort and location combined!
- Pullman Berlin Schweizerhof Budapester Str. 25, 10787 Berlin Five star comfort can be had at near midrange prices. This is our top pick Berlin hotel. Swimming pool, spa, great location, and exceptional service.
Getting to Berlin
As a capital city, Berlin is easily accessed by all major airlines and the high speed rail network. It is also serviced by a host of low cost airlines that make travel to and from many other major European cities affordable. Some of our favorite cheap flight carriers flying in and out of Berlin include: Air Berlin, Easy Jet, Ryanair, and Eurowings.
How To Get Around Berlin
Berlin is one of the easiest cities to navigate with a comprehensive, clean and efficient network of buses, trams, subways and trains; but the first time visitor may find all of the ticket options very confusing. Unfortunately there isn’t a smart card option as in many other capital cities, instead you’ll need to purchase tickets and there are so many options to choose from.
There are short ride tickets, single tickets, single ticket multi-trip, day tickets, group tickets, and tourist tickets all with their own pros and cons. To add to the confusion, you need to specify which zones you are traveling within, A, B, or C. The good news is that everything you’ll want to do in Berlin on a weekend trip is within the A and B zones.
How Do You Decide Which Berlin Transit Ticket To Buy?
If you’re not planning on using any public transport and just need to get to and from the airport and hotel then buy the “single ticket 4-trip-ticket.” While the name of this ticket is a bit confusing, it is actually just four, single trip tickets that are good anytime you need them for two hours of travel within their specified zones. You can share the four tickets–so one person could ride four different times, two people could ride two times, and four people could ride once.
The two hours don’t start until you time stamp the ticket in the little yellow box at the entrance to the station (or on the bus or tram). You can get on and off, transfer, stop for a snack, as long as you finish your journey before the two hours is up, you’re good.
But, and this is important, you can’t go back towards your starting point–it’s a one way ticket. The 4-trip-ticket for the Berlin Public Transport will save you nearly the cost of one ticket so it’s worth going that route if you know you’ll be making four trips spread out over a few days.
Berlin Day Ticket May Be The Best Bang For The Buck
For those days when you’ll be on and off the trams, buses, and trains more often, a day pass is the way to go. With a day pass you can get on and off as many times as you’d like, in any direction you’d like, all day long until 3:00 AM the next day.
If you are planning on taking more than three or more trips in a day then this is definitely a good way to go. The day ticket also needs to be time stamped before using it and only one person may travel on a ticket. You’ll need to buy one day ticket for each person in your party over the age of six, and remember to buy the reduced fare tickets for those between the ages of six and fourteen.
Traveling With Family Or Friends? – Berlin Group Ticket
If there are three or more people in your group (over the age of six) then you have yet another option to save money. The small group day ticket is one ticket that covers a day of unlimited travel for up to five travelers.
This isn’t just for families; it can be used by any small group. And you don’t have to always travel together. As long as the traveler(s) have the ticket with them they are OK. The kids can be hanging out in the hotel while mom and dad are out for the evening (or vice versa)! One small group day ticket costs less than three regular day tickets.
One More Option – Berlin WelcomeCard
Of course, like any other big city, packed with tourist attractions, there are tourist tickets available to cover two, three, four, five, or six days of unlimited travel. These tickets are good for one adult and up to three children (6-14) and include reduced entry to a variety of attractions.
For a single parent traveling with three or fewer children, this may be the way to go depending on how much travel you’ll be doing each day. Unlike many other cities we’ve visited, these cards are a real good deal if the conditions are right.
The 48 hour Berlin WelcomeCard is only two euros more than one small group day pass and provides discounted entry to most of the major sights in Berlin on top of the unlimited travel for forty-eight hours.
What’s The Best Choice For Berlin Public Transport?
For a weekend trip to Berlin for sightseeing and visiting attractions we recommend purchasing the 48 hour Berlin Welcome Card. You’ll need one for each rider over 14 years of age, but the two cards will cover travel for the two adult riders plus a total of six children for forty eight hours from the time of first use. That’s enough unlimited travel to get you from the airport on Friday evening and back to the airport on Sunday evening. Plus, with these cards you’ll also get discounted entry to most of the major attractions Berlin has to offer.
Other Fun Things to do in Berlin
- Drive a Trabi on tour through Trabi-Safari
- Discover the history at the Curry Wurst museum
- Visit the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
- Create your own chocolate bar at Ritter Sport Bunte Schokowelt
- Learn more about German history at the German Historical Museum
- Take in a performance at the Berlin State Opera
- Dinner with a view at Berlin Fernsehturm
- Shopping and people watching on Alexanderplatz
- Find the art treasures at the National Gallery
- See and be seen with Berlin’s fashionistas on Kurfürstendamm
Final Thoughts On A Berlin Weekend
A weekend in Berlin, a mere 2 days, will be filled with history and fun, but make sure you spend some time walking and shopping along Berlin’s premiere shopping street, the Kurfurstendamm; a visit to Berlin’s World Class Zoo and Aquarium; take in another museum or three; or just wander and explore the architecture and green spaces of this magnificent city. While you’re here be sure and have a taste of the city’s famous curry wurst (there’s even a museum dedicated to this culinary treat).
Don’t take it just from us, check out this article: What to Do, See, and Eat in Berlin.